Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States


Significance: In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court upheld the public accommodations section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and enjoined a motel from refusing to serve African Americans.

An Atlanta motel owner, whose clientele was largely interstate travelers, refused to rent rooms to African Americans as required by Title II, the public accommodations provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The owner argued that Congress had exceeded its power to regulate private business under the commerce clause. The Supreme Court unanimously held that the services rendered to guests at the motel were a part of interstate commerce and therefore could be properly regulated by Congress. Justice Tom C. Clark wrote the unanimous decision upholding the validity of the public accommodations provision. Justices Hugo L. Black, William O. Douglas, and Arthur J. Goldberg wrote separate concurrences.